Daniel Nexon: Harry Potter as Hero, Legend, and Global Commonplace

Daniel Nexon, Assistant Professor in the Government Department at Georgetown and keen observer of all phenomena political, literary, and cultural, has posted the notes from his Prophecy 2007 Featured Talk, “Harry Potter: From Hero to Global Commonplace,” up at The Duck of Minerva. The notes are worth reading in their own right — it is easily the best introduction and summary I have read of how to understand Harry Potter in traditional categories (myth, legend, folklore) as well as in the context of globalization — and especially edifying and challenging after the disappointing review of Deathly Hallows in The Times Sunday Book Review. Prof. Nexon’s grasp of both fantasy literature and of politico-cultural history and dynamics in the West make him an invaluable observer and exegete in the search to discover “Whence Potter-Mania.” For serious readers of Harry Potter, this is a “must read.”

NY Times Sunday Book Review: Surprise! Christopher Hitchens Does Not Like Deathly Hallows

Did anybody else wonder what the New York Times Sunday Book Review editorial board was thinking when they decided to ask Christopher Hitchens, world’s brashest atheist and author of God is Not Great, to review Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? I don’t get it. I know he does book reviews for The Atlantic and The Times in addition to political commentary, but he doesn’t have any sympathy for the work, even where you think he might (can you say “Islamofascism”?).

You can still read the Hitchens review online today and Monday before it falls behind the NYT profitwall and I urge you to do so. You won’t be surprised that he urges readers to try Philip Pullman, public atheist, if they want a really good read….

More tomorrow, God willing, on the Literary Alchemy, Christian Content, and genius of Deathly Hallows. Stay tuned!

Potter Encyclopedias and Guidebooks: Let the Avalanche begin!

I was surfing a wonderful Political Science/International Relations weBlog that a new friend of mine makes contributions to and was startled to find quite a bit of Harry Potter commentary. I recommend you check out the pieces by Patrick Thaddeus Jackson on “What Harry Potter Inherits From Star Wars” and “Why Harry Potter Beats Football for Conversation” if discussion of the books as monomyth/legend/mythology or as cultural artifact is your sort of thing. Me? I was trying to get to Daniel Nexon’s “How Harry Potter Explains the World” at the New Republic Online but I couldn’t get past the subscriber-only blocker, doggone it. (You can read it here.)

What I was able to read that Prof. Nexon linked to, though, was an article by Scott McLemee from July in the Inside Higher Education blog called “Pottering Around.” Not much of what Mr. McLemee is of interest to serious readers of Harry Potter because he discloses with a hint of pleasure that he has not been up to reading any of the books or seeing any of the movies. He does share at least one thing you should know; the avalanche of academic papers and Big Publishing House Guidebooks to the series has begun. [Read more…]

A Rainbow of Gold, Black, White, and Red: The Alchemical Artistry of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ (A)

A revised and much expanded version of this post is now Chapter 3 of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.

Terry Mattingly: “Final Harry Potter wars? Part II”

I’m through the Nigredo portion of my monster post on Alchemy in Deathly Hallows. Maybe tomorrow I can storm through the Albedo and Rubedo so it will go up here for your comment and correction. Until then, I offer this placeholder and thought provoker for those All Pros who check into HogPro daily. My apologies for this delay!

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes the weekly religion column for the Scripps Howard News Service that is syndicated to papers throughout the country. He reports on the coverage of religion in Main Stream Media every day at www.GetReligion.org on which site in addition to his columns he has followed the “ghost” in the Harry Potter story since 1999. The first TMatt post Deathly Hallows column was called “Final Harry Potter Wars, Part I.” Here is the second part, hot off the presses:

Coming soon to a parish near you: Sunday school with Harry Potter.

This could happen if your congregation buys the new “Mixing it up with Harry Potter” study guides from the Church of England. The goal of the 12-part series is to use scenes from these omnipresent books and movies to help children discuss big issues such as death, sacrifice, loneliness, fear, mercy and grief.

“Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners,” said Bishop John Pritchard of Oxford, speaking on behalf of the curriculum. “There’s nothing better than a good story to make people think, and there’s plenty in the Harry Potter books to make young people think about the choices they make in their everyday lives.” [Read more…]